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Station at Chambery

French president and terrorist at same train station on same day

France has been especially embarrassed by the search for the Berlin jihadist.

Published: December 26, 2016, 5:08 pm

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    Before Anis Amri was killed in Milan, the terror suspect had travelled unhindered through France, using a similar route to the French president at one stage.

    France’s Front National and the conservative opposition assailed the Socialist government as lax after it became known that the president and the terrorist might have actually crossed each other while travelling in the south of the country.

    “It’s a veritable kitchen strainer,” said Eric Ciotti, lawmaker for the Republicans. “How could this person enter in Europe without being monitored? How could we let him settle in Europe?”

    The country has been in a state of emergency since last year, and acutely aware of the risks of violence on trains, after American passengers thwarted an attack on a Paris-Amsterdam train in 2015.

    Yet French President Francois Hollande visited the Alpine town of Chambery on the same day that Amri is believed to have passed through its train station en route to Italy, completely unnoticed by border guards or the president’s security detail.

    The next morning, as Italian police were identifying Amri’s body, France’s interior minister actually visited a Paris train station to talk about vigorous transport security in place for the holidays, AP reported.

    What’s worse, it was not the first time.

    Last year, hours after ISIS extremists killed 130 people at multiple targets in Paris, key suspect Salah Abdeslam fled to Belgium despite increased checks on both the French and Belgian borders.

    It took authorities four months to find him. Further, Abdeslam, a French national, had traveled through the Italian port of Bari on a roundtrip journey to Greece in August, months before the attack.

    And in 2014, Mehdi Nemmouche allegedly killed four people in Brussels, then crossed into France and traveled to the Mediterranean city of Marseille before being picked up in a police check.

    karin@praag.org

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